Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the diminutive octagenarian sexpert, has written a new book: Myths of Love: Echoes of Ancient Mythology in the Modern Romantic Imagination.
Mainly known for her no-nonsense advice on sexual relations, this book marks a departure for Dr. Ruth, in which she and co-author Jerome Singerman look at sex in the world of ancient mythology. Which means mainly the Greeks and Romans, and boy, did THEY know how to party! The myths of the Greeks and Romans are chock full of sex and scandal, with infidelity (Zeus was a philandering so-and-so; no wonder his wife, Hera, is the patron goddess of jealousy!), seduction (also Zeus’ speciality), rape (yup, Big Daddy Zeus again), castration (Aphrodite, goddess of love, sex and beauty, was born from the foam of the sea caused when her father Kronos’ testicles were thrown there – EWWW) and romantic love (think Eros and Psyche) throughout the myths and the gods.
Zeus makes it into this list of the “13 Biggest Assholes in Greek Mythology” and with good reason. “Where to start with this guy? Zeus was of course the guy in charge of the gods and the universe. Everyone, both mortal and immortal, called him father — both to represent his status and because in ancient Greece there was a 30% chance that Zeus actually sired you. Zeus cheated on his wife Hera constantly, and the sex didn’t need to be consensual — once he decided to fuck a woman, he was going to fuck her, and if he had to be a swan, a bull or a golden shower of light to do it, he didn’t care.” His wife Hera was also a bit of an asshole, because she would make sure the female goddesses or humans who had sex with Zeus, even against their will, suffered cruel torture at her hands. What a bitch! Wow, between being raped (or fathered) by Zeus and tortured by Hera, it sounds like ancient Olympus could be a sucky place to be…
If you don’t recall all this sexist assholery from your junior high school social studies class, perhaps you should give the new book by Westheimer a look. It will be a survey of the major classical literature that makes up Greek mythology, examining the significance of the sexual themes of these stories. If you think about it, we still carry many symbols and ideas from this literature in our culture today. When we call someone a narcissist, we refer to the myth of Narcissus, a god who fell in love with his own reflection (the narcissus flower, or daffodil, is said to have grown from the place by a stream where he could not tear himself away from his reflection). So next time you’re dating some guy who’s full of himself, think of him as a stunningly handsome Greek god who can’t help himself.
Then there’s aphrodisiacs: you know, the foods and drinks that supposedly make us want sex. Named for Aphrodite, beautiful goddess of sex and love (also known as Venus; the misty, mysterious planet is also named for her). In astrology, flowers and fruits associated with love are said to be under her dominion. And there is a reason why we use words like “peach” or “tomato” or “cherry” or “blossom” to refer to beautiful young girls… it all goes back to those sexy Greeks!
In an interview, Dr. Ruth talks about her new book but also about concerns that are becoming more important to her; like aging, for example. She says times are changing to suggest that elderly people may find it easier and more desirable to maintain sexual and romantic relationships as they get older, and that their adult children are generally more supportive of this trend. She says: “…it used to be that their children, as mature adults, would be horrified: “Why do my parents need sex?” That has changed a little bit. Now the children are more likely to say, “If they can find a relationship, good for them.”
Coleen Singer is a writer, photographer, film editor and all-around geeky gal at Sssh.com, where she often waxes eloquent about sex, porn for women, sex toys, censorship, the literary and pandering evils of Fifty Shades of Grey and other topics not likely to be found on the Pulitzer Prize shortlist. She is also the editor and curator of EroticScribes.com. When she is not doing all of the above, Singer is an amateur stock-car racer and enjoys modifying vintage 1970s cars for the racetrack. Oh, she also likes porn.